Rural hospitals face pandemic woes as Covid-19 cases surge

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI)- It’s still unknown of the long-term effects of the Omicron surge towards healthcare are.

But the short-term prognosis is bleak. COVID-19 cases are once again slamming rural medical facilities, leaving many with stretched resources for treating severely ill patients.

People are becoming infected at staggering rates.

And the availability of critical care is narrowing.

Health professionals said with a growing number of ICU patients and fewer hands to assist, it’s becoming more challenging to help every person.

“There are’s just no beds,” said Kim Timbs, the COO at Tyler Holmes Memorial Hospital.

The surge in Omicron is causing several patients at area medical centers, and that overflow has more people waiting longer for results–especially in Winona.

” It is more contagious than previous variants, so it’s impacting people all at one time,” said Jeffrey Whitfield, the Director of Nursing.

Of the 606 COVID-19 tests administered in just a week at Tyler Holmes, 301 came back positive–meaning one in two people were infected.

But not all of them are being sent home with antibiotics. Some require a hospital stay.

As Timbs explained, there’s a challenge finding space for those patients, especially those that need ICU beds.

” Our emergency room has had to keep patients longer than normal because we could not find a bed. The capacity was full everywhere,” said Timbs.

Tyler Holmes has 25 beds available–11 for Covid, 14 for in-patient. But, there’s a constant rotation of patients.

So, who do they turn to?

” We’ve had patients go to Meridian, Hattiesburg, New Orleans, Memphis, but that would take up to two days to get them there. Our hospital is small, and we are not equipped to take care of some of these patients for a very long time, but we’ve done okay so far,” said Timbs.

” We’ve had this happen. We put several on ventilators. It’s hard finding a bed where they can take the ventilator patient. Getting a patient transferred that needs specialty care is difficult right now,” said Whitfield.

It’s a route rural medical facilities are relying on to survive the large intake.

” We’re just doing our best to maintain,” said Whitfield.

Representatives with Tyler Holmes Memorial Hospital say only half of their ICU beds are full at this time.

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